Outraged English artist Lee Merrill Sendall is considering ways to mount a lawsuit for copyright infringement concerning similarities between the design he submitted to the 2009 competition "Artists Taking the Lead" (ATTL) and the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.
Sendall's "Large Spiral Mound" was one of 133 project proposals submitted to the ATTL competition sponsored by the Arts Council of England (ACE). The purpose of the competition was to "create the opportunity for artists to contribute a significant legacy for the Olympic Games in that region." Sendall and artist Dominic Heffer conceived a "neo Neolithic mound" in a rural setting and produced images, sketches, and descriptions demonstrating their vision.
At no point were the artists expected to relinquish their copyright interest in order to participate in ACE's competition. ATTL submission guidelines specifically state that it was "committed to ensuring that artists retain control and ownership of their original work." This also includes offering administrative assistance to artists needing to establish their ownership of a concept submitted as part of a funding application. In fact, ACE hoped that finalists whose designs were not selected would "be able to explore alternative routes to realizing their project" and could gain exposure by posting their designs to the ACE website.
Many were skeptical of the results of the 2009 competition, as the winner was not an independent artist but rather "Leeds Canvas," a consortium of Leeds-based cultural organizations. Though also disappointed, Sendall was prepared to move on--until he saw the design of the Opening Ceremonies three years after he submitted his bid to the competition. Sendall told the Arts Professional: "I began receiving messages both online and by text from people who were wondering if I had some involvement with the planning of the opening. To my surprise, a very close representation of my shortlisted concept appeared to the center piece: a spiral mound in a pastoral landscape." Sendall stated that not only was the concept copied, but also "smaller visual details in our illustrations." Sendall calls the alleged infringement of his design "insulting and troubling," stating that if the producers of the ceremony did indeed draw inspiration from his design that "some recognition of [his] bid to create one for real could have made a huge difference to its viability." He and collaborator Heffer are struggling artists in the north of England and "some recognition of [their] hard work to bring this concept to light would have been most welcome, if indeed it did inspire the opening ceremony."
Sendall will continue to pursue legal action. Follow the progress of the case at: Large Spiral Mound 2012.